LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – In a letter penned Tuesday to the University of Southern California Board of Trustees, 200 faculty members asked President Max Nikias to resign in the wake of allegations USC officials may have tried to hide sexual misconduct allegations leveled against a longtime school gynecologist.
In the letter obtained by the Los Angeles Times, the faculty “call upon President Nikias to step aside, and upon the Board of Trustees to restore moral leadership to the university.”
Dr. George Tyndall, 71, was a full-time gynecologist at the Engemann Student Health Center for nearly 30 years. But it wasn’t until 2016 that the school began investigating him over allegations of improper pelvic exams and making racist and sexually inappropriate remarks. Former colleagues had questioned his methods of pelvic exams, specifically, his practice of digital insertion before using a speculum.
However, in response to the letter, the board released its own statement, which read, in part, “The executive committee of the board has full confidence in President Nikias’ leadership, ethics, and values and is certain that he will successfully guide our community forward.”
The faculty letter also referenced the resignation of two deans of the USC Keck School of Medicine in just an 18-month period over various drug and sexual misconduct allegations. Dr. Carmen A. Puliafito and Dr. Rohit Varma, resigned their posts in April 2016 and October 2017, respectively.
“There still has been no public report of the investigation into the two cases involving USC medical deans, nor any visible attempt to determine what University administrators knew and when they knew it, and why they waited as long as they did to take action,” the letter read.
On Monday, four former female students sued USC, claiming that the school intentionally hid the alleged sexual misconduct. The complaint alleges that Tyndall forced the women to strip naked on multiple occasions, during which he “groped” and “digitally penetrated” them.
Celebrity attorney Gloria Allred filed a similar lawsuit Tuesday on behalf of a woman who attended USC and alleges she was assaulted by Tyndall during a pelvic exam in 2016. The plaintiff in the lawsuit, Daniella Mohazab, alleged that Tyndall made inappropriate comments, asked her for sexual details of her life, and performed a genital examination without wearing gloves.
“He said this was part of an STD test,” Mohazab said. “He made me feel extremely uncomfortable and violated.”
Now, 21 years old and a USC graduate student, Mohazab said USC has “let me down” because the school was allegedly “aware of Tyndall’s conduct before I was even born.”
On May 15, Nikias, who has been in the role of president since 2010, announced that the school’s Office of Equity and Diversity received a complaint about Tyndall in June 2016 and immediately launched an investigation — which included surveying 2,500 student patients — and placed Tyndall on administrative leave.
USC didn’t terminate Tyndall’s employment until June 2017. The L.A. Times had been investigating Tyndall for months prior to the university’s acknowledgment Tuesday.
The Times reports that the school received complaints against Tyndall as early as the year 2000. Last week, following the revelation, the Times said about 200 more patients had come forward with complaints against Tyndall. The paper said some of those cases would soon be forwarded to the Los Angeles Police Department.
“Numerous students and nursing staff reported Dr. Tyndall’s misconduct in the years between 2000 and 2014, yet Dr. Tyndall was suspended only in 2016, after one brave staff person reported him to USC’s rape crisis center,” the faculty wrote in their letter.
Despite resigning, Tyndall did not lose his state medical license. He has never been criminally charged or even questioned by authorities.
“After concluding that the charges against Dr. Tyndall were true, the University allowed him to resign quietly,” the letter said. “By failing to notify the state Medical Board, law enforcement, or patients, the university allowed Dr. Tyndall to keep his medical license, continue preying on women outside USC, and escape the consequences of his abuse.”
Nikias claims he learned of the complaints against Tyndall in the fall of 2017, months after his resignation. The Times said USC had placed Tyndall on administrative leave for nearly a year before it reached “a secret deal with Tyndall last summer that allowed him to resign with a financial payout.”
Last week, USC fired two longtime student health clinic administrators as a result of the Tyndall scandal. Dr. William Leavitt, the lead physician at the Engemann Student Health Clinic, confirmed to the Times he was fired Friday afternoon. Tammie Akiyoshi, the clinical director at the health clinic, was also fired.
Former colleagues alleged Tyndall targeted young women, especially those from China and other Asian countries, for exams that included inappropriate touching and lewd remarks about patients’ sex lives and bodies, the Times reported.
The Chinese government issued a pointed public statement last week expressing “serious concerns” about USC’s handling of Tyndall.
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